Toy Review: The Original Superheroes Series 1 by NECA
NECAThe Original Superheroes line, at least for now, offers variations of their Earth Defenders numbers, which is an interesting way to go about it backwards. Defenders is a tribute line to a cartoon and toy series that updated old King Features comic book heroes. Now NECA is using these figure sculpts to create figures for the original characters they were based on in the first place. Kind of.
See, while the ghost the figure in this line is more based on the comics, the Flash Gordon and Ming figures most closely resemble the 1979 Filmation cartoon and Mattel toys based on it. Ming sports his all-green outfit with a cape and a fin on his head, while Flash has the stripes on the side of his legs and a red shirt/black pants combo. Two exclusive redecos, meant to be Comic-Con exclusives but sold through the NECA online store and Target, replicate old Mattel action figure cards and feature the figures in paint jobs based on the actual Mattel toys. (Like the old star wars numbers, many toys at the time treated source color guides only as suggestions.)
And this is where it gets a little weird. The Mattel Ming figure originally featured a very faded olive green with a slight flesh tone. He didn’t distinguish between Ming’s skin color and the color of his clothes. NECA looks like flesh, and as a result, Ming appears mostly naked. To save on paint, Flash had a red crotch, as it was part of his torso, with blue legs. NECA also reproduced it faithfully. Rather than just including the original laser gun, however, they include a bonus right hand that can be replaced with a fist.
To make this Ming less naked, you can always jump on a head of the other Ming, which has a different skin tone. And thus makes the flesh-colored Caucasian costume look like clothes again.
The actual cartoon had color schemes like the regular versions of these characters. Both also include the laser guns, multiple hands, modified versions of the Defenders blast effects to fit those new bonus guns, swords and heads. Flash’s extra head features his aviator headgear, while Ming’s is unadorned and bald, in a Max von Sydow homage appearance. Although his regular head is new too – the Defenders the figure was not wearing this finned helmet.
Flash’s extra hands only include a left sword hand, while Ming is ambidextrous and also has a right one. The fists of the Mings are gloved, while the others are bare. Flash and Ming both use the same basic superhero body except for the forearms – Ming has sculpted glove hems. (Phantom has cuffs, which are different.) Sheaths for the belt and belt, and Ming even has a small metal chain. Thanks to the laser gun aiming sight, blast effects are a beast to attach, as you have to match a small notch in the blast with the sight. Once attached, the short flash stays fine, and the longer one stays…for a while. The gun is the same for both versions – silver for Mattel style, gun-metal for Filmation/comic.
Thanks to NECA for listening to the complaints – the pegs on the hands don’t have the same paint rubbing issue as before. And the members of Phantom are doing well. Comic/Filmation Flash had awkward shoulder joints; the kind that felt like they could deform when forced. But boiling in water and popping them on and turning them back on solved that problem. Gun holsters close easier without the guns inside – stretch a bit and they might close with it, but it’s irritable.
The Phantom is an entirely different matter. Now with more highlights on his costume, real realistic guns (with little silver skulls on the handles!), custom explosions for those guns, a whip and his sacred skull, it’s the comic version. The pistols fit freely in two side holsters. His eyes and belt buckle also glow in the dark. As a bonus, he comes with a whip, the full length of which is a bendable wire for action poses. Considering the character’s kind of white savior in Africa, the whip might seem a bit grating, but it’s baked into the mythology, for better or worse. And his Speedo being scratched.
The skull even functions as a bonus head, with an articulated jaw. It’s unclear why fans might want this, but perhaps it can display some disintegration on Ming’s part. NECA’s Randy Falk once pitched the Zorro name as a future entry into the line, which could mean a few horses in the future. Meanwhile, McFarlane’s horses for Return of the Dark Knight and the witcher should be scaled to Ghost Who Walks (or, uh, sometimes walks). Anyway, unless NECA ever makes a Billy Zane movie version (please please! But unlikely), this is probably the best Phantom figure we’ll get. And we can probably expect Mandrake and Lothar based on comics before Zorro.
Assuming the source material is no problem, while Phantom is definitely better than the Earth Defenders version, Flash Gordon talks about equal money, and Ming…well, Defenders Ming is easily the fanciest Ming.
These classic flashes really have baby blue eyes compared to the previous one. The aviator helmet face actually holds back the ridiculously square jawline a bit.
Now the interesting part is the prices. For Mattel undercard figures, you’ll have to get lucky at Target or pay eBay scalpers. For the boxers: because the numbers have increased quite a bit in the last two years, they cost more than the Earth Defenders versions, although they don’t really come with much more besides the bonus head. Entertainment Earth has the Defenders set of Flash, Ming, and Phantom for $89.99, and The Original Superheroes versions of those three for $104.99 – a $25 markup. It’s hard to say they’re worth that much more unless the particular color schemes are more meaningful. The Phantom alone? Yes. Unless you are tall Defenders fan who wanted the pack-in Zuffy minifig, or who prefers his rings over exploding lasers, this Phantom has the right accessories.
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NECA originally created this body for DC superheroes. On King Features’ heroes, it seems a little odd, because no one in the 30s and 40s drew super steroid physiques like this. Nobody had one in real life either. It’s a modern twist, akin to Mattel trying to give He-Man the most powerful physique in the universe. And like the Masters of the Universe, adapting that muscular physique to everyone in line. As a marketing touch for kids, it’s great. Will the kids buy them? Who knows. Anyway, adults are buying more action figures these days. You decide if the hybrid look is right for you. Check out the gallery below for more.
So let us know in the comments what you think.
Recommended purchase: Defenders of the Earth – The Complete Series of 65 episodes
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